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A Videographer’s Thoughts: The Audio Conundrum

Matt The Cinematographer1Perhaps the most difficult job for your videographer on your wedding day is how to capture top quality audio whilst making sure they don’t miss a moment of filming your day. Most wedding videographers are very small teams or even just one individual and are unlikely to have someone allocated solely to looking after sound as would be the case in film or TV work. Sound is in itself a very specialist area and one that can be affected by all kinds of factors, and whilst a good videographer will take every precaution to ensure the key audio from your day is recorded in the highest possible quality, it’s not always within their control. 

Whilst most videographers will be recording audio from camera mounted mics throughout the day it’s the ceremony and speeches where the sound becomes particularly important and where additional sound sources may be required. It’s also here where the videographer can quickly run into problems.

radio-micsMany videographers will make use of either radio mics or audio recorders to give them the best possible chance of capturing crystal clear audio. These will require lapel or tie clip microphones which are attached somewhere on the clothing, typically on both the groom and the officiant who will be looking after the ceremony. Now this can cause one or two problems, after all the groom naturally wants to look his best for his wedding day and having a microphone, however small, clipped to your tie or suit is hardly the greatest fashion accessory. It’s for this very reason that the Bride is rarely given her own microphone – the last thing any videographer wants is to spoil the look of the dress, so if we feel so strongly about protecting the appearance of the bride why do we not apply the same philosophy to the groom?

Well the answer is quite simply that at some point the videographer has to find the compromise between making sure you look your best and making sure that they capture the quality of sound your film demands. It’s relatively easy to place a mic fairly discretely onto the groom’s suit which, as you are generally facing each other for the vows and key audio moments, will generally also pick up the bride perfectly well. The officiant will also be standing nearby but not necessarily close enough to pick up the softly spoken couple and hence they will also often be mic’d separately so that all the key speech is picked up. A microphone can of course simply be placed reasonably close to the action and placed correctly will certainly pick up the words, (indeed this is often there anyway as backup even when the groom is mic’d) but the problem with this is that it will also pick up all of the ambient sound too much more loudly than a lapel. In some cases this is no bad thing, after all the guests are also an important part of your ceremony, but it does mean that (particularly in big echoey churches) the sound often becomes “muddy” and lacks the clarity and warmth that a lapel mic can provide. As any microphones need to be both out of the videographer’s shot and, more importantly, not getting in the way or looking ugly during your ceremony the chances are they are going to be placed further away or at a different angle than is optimal and so the quality is always going to suffer. Consequently, whilst there are no definite rules and your videographer may choose a different way to capture audio on the day, if you’re asked to wear a mic it’s generally best to go with the flow and allow them to place it as discretely as possible.

It’s not just the groom that has occasionally been known to turn down a mic though, officiants are notorious for refusing microphones, either because they are already wearing one for the PA system or because they “have a big loud voice which you’ll have no problem hearing”. Again the problem here is not missing the audio as such, or indeed the actual volume of the voice but the difference in quality having a mic closer to the officiant offers. Sometimes (although rarely in old church systems) the videographer can take a feed from the PA system radio mic but where possible it’s a good idea to speak to your videographer about whether they will need to mic the officiant so that this can be mentioned to them ahead of time so that they can fully understand why that microphone is required.

Bride vs groom mic-1

Similarly if you are having a PA system and a handheld radio mic for your speeches some videographers will either ask the sound engineer to provide them with a feed for recording the handheld mic or will provide you with an additional microphone purely for the recording. If you are planning on having a PA system then make sure you mention it to the videographer so that they can plan accordingly and they can then let you know whether they will require a feed ahead of time to prevent any problems. It’s important to remember that using this system though the recording is only as good as the feed the sound technician provides and so the quality may not always be fully controllable by the videographer.

The final area of live sound that videographers are commonly asked to record though is the band. Bands are often very expensive to hire and form a key part of your day so it’s completely understandable that you might want to include some live audio from them in your film. However the art of recording bands is extremely tricky and in the majority of cases your videographer is unlikely to be able to capture high enough quality sound for any recordings to become a seamless part of your soundtrack. Whilst sometimes it’s possible to get a reasonable feed direct from the PA system or, more rarely, with recorders placed in front of the band, to get a truly high quality recording requires an additional mixer and microphones focussing purely on the recording rather than the live sound, and this is something that very few videographers are likely to be able to offer. Sometimes it’s best to just go with another piece of music or ask the band whether they have any pre-recorded tracks that can be used for the film, that way the audio will blend with the rest of the music and not take you out of the moment when watching it back.

So when it comes to audio trust in your videographer. Trust that they will only use sound that is appropriate to the film, trust that they have no intention of listening to private conversations and trust that they have the audio expertise to know what they need to do to capture the best sound quality they can on your day. They may use the techniques above or they may have their own variations that they find effective, but only they will know what they need to do to capture the type of audio they’re looking for.

It’s often said that sound and music is 50% of what makes a great wedding film, let’s help your videographer to make your film 50% better.

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